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Land of the Lost

26 May

It’s 2008, right? Fucking hell. And here I was kinda hoping that, by now, I’d have found one of those ever-elusive Sleestak pylons to catapult me right back to ’62, ’77, ’83 or even ’91 for christ’s sake. Ah well. While I continue my search, let’s talk about recent releases that have been taking up my headspace lately:

1. BOILED IN LEADSilver (Omnium Records, 2008) – Big comeback record by the best Celtocentric rockers ever to call America their home. Original singer Todd Menton has returned to the helm, bringing renewed focus and lotsa great Irish tunage with him – and effectively shaking off the kinda bogue world-explorer sound that gummed up their 90’s records. These guys play tight and inspired – not unlike how Richard Thompson might, if he decided to ditch the professionalism, crank up the decibels/distortion a good 3 or 4 notches, and hit hard at trad material again. Pick of the bushel is the opener “Apple Tree Wassail” – in these environmentally uncertain times, it’s nice to know someone’s taking time to rock in a bountiful harvest. As good as their late 80’s From the Ladle to the Grave highwater mark? Maybe.

2. THE HELLACOPTERSHead Off (Wild Kingdom/Psychout Records, 2008) – I’m pretty easy when it comes to radio-friendly rock: if you’ve got energy, some catchy tunage, a wild singer and decent drummer – I’m probably game. So you won’t hear no bitching from me about your FOO FIGHTERS, or your MUSEs, or even your OK GOs. Nor about THE HELLACOPTERS, whose SONIC’S RENDEZVOUS BAND bywayof THE KNACK thing sounds totally comfortable coming outta my radio this morn.

Yeah there was a time when they seemed to fetishize post-STOOGES Detroit R&R just a little too much for my taste. It was downright morbid – like they had little shrines built to Rob Tyner and Scott Ashton in their bathrooms! But this new rec, made up entirely of songs penned by their actual peers (THE NEW BOMB TURKS, THE BELLRAYS, THE POWDER MONKEYS, DEAD MOON, etc.) feels way more honest a statement than covering, say, RADIO BIRDMAN. Coulda used a ballad or two for a change of pace, but hey what’s here is hot and dandy. Not something I wanna think too much about, but listen to? Yep, and frequently.

3. YOKE SHIREWitching Hour (Zygo Records, 2007) – Ray’s Realm got me curious about this, and dammit if it ain’t still holding my attention – albeit for alotta the wrong reasons. This PINK FLOYD/JETHRO TULL inspired epic sprawl from Boston is so frickin’ cut off from anything I grew up with (i.e. punk, hc, top 40 powerpop, newwave), I’d almost believe it was conceived in a prog test-tube lab deep beneath Steve Howe’s tennis court! That two brothers could be responsible for damn near every sound on this 2-CD set is pretty impressive. But that it’s all so consistently compelling and imaginatively rockin’ is positively jawdropping. Horrendous graphic art BUT HEY this could be the very best tunage you ever hear pumped outta the stereo whilst browsing your local magickal/pagan bookshop – a true accomplishment, methinks.

4. WISHBONE ASHFirst Light (Talking Elephant Records, 2007) – I was in Glastonbury recently and noticed flyers all over town advertising current shows by these English warhorses. No, no – I didn’t go see em play, but I did search the web for soundclips of their recent material, which sounds exactly what I figured a bunch of rock dinosaurs might get up to 35 years on (this is not a compliment). But then I discovered this amazing disc: their first known recording from 1969 recorded as a demo to garner label interest. And it was apparently played on homemade/rebuilt instruments! This illuminates all that was once great about this band: their dancing/piercing dual gtr leads, their rich melodic material, and their nimbly rockin’ bass/drum combo of Martin Turner and Steve Upton. Easily blows away their first proper self-titled disc, IMO.

5. THE DOORSLive in Pittsburgh 1970 (Rhino Records, 2008) The horrors that THE DOORS’ original output has been dragged through – via endless flogging on “classic” rock corporate radio, on car commercials, and in lame boomer-directed flicks – is ultimately a fate worse than, say, CLAPTON’s reinvention into an incidental soundtrackist for elite fashion runway shows. These days, it’s really, really tough to listen to a DOORS tune and not be at least a little bit disgusted.

But really, that shouldn’t detract from what they were groovin’ on all them years ago. And this cavernous live recording is where you’ll find a way back in. The blues here is one loooong black train that keeps up a relentless modal howl all night long. Jim’s sober, and hence not hogging all the limelight; Robby K.’s playing gtr with a depth Cippolina always wished he had; and dammit if Manzurek ain’t burping and belching with the best rock keysmen (and NEVER have I paid that man a compliment). You wanna know where Jeffrey Lee Pierce got the idea for his voodoo blues from? Right here bub.

6. MOTORPSYCHOLittle Lucid Moments (Stickman Records, 2008) Thanks to Wordy Diva for the heads-up on this one. Positively staggering progtastic jams from this Norwegian modern rock institution. People have compared these lengthy (12 – 21 minute) cuts to YES and Meddle-era PINK FLOYD, which are valid touchstones I suppose . . . but what I’m hearing clearest sounds like Daydream Nation-era SONIC YOUTH ripping out an hour long tribute to the best Welsh rockers ever, MAN. Just try and tell me the high-pitched vocals and chiming gtr harmonies (not to mention the insistent drumming) don’t get you thinking this, too, was recorded Live at the Padget Rooms, Penarth!

Now, I’m not sure if everyone’s gonna understand a record like this: it isn’t explicitly bell-bottom retro like WITCHCRAFT, nor is it overtly post-modern in heaviness ala BORIS. So it’s gonna confound those looking to “place” it easily. But that’s all to their credit; MOTORPSYCHO is doing their own thing so fucking well, it refuses simple catagorization. For anyone still interested in how powerful modern Scandinavian gtr rock can be, look no further.

7. KURT VILEConstant Hitmaker (Glutcher Records, 2008) A full year into this blog thing, and I finally get some promos sent to me, unsolicited, for “review consideration”. They asked for it, so here goes:

The first track here gets me thinking how TOM PETTY’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More” might’ve sounded recorded on a C-60. Elsewhere, I’m hearing any number of quietpop/slop superstars . . . BECK, AMERICA, New Zealand’s ALISTAIR GALBRIATH, KENNY frickin’ RANKIN for christ’s sake – all filtered through an ancient, wind-swept Teac 3340S recorder for that “feel” we’ve come to associate with indie dweebs in the 90’s. The relative merits of this, I’m gonna leave up to you, mate. You’d be is good company calling this “homespun, futurist folkpop”; you’d have the support of many others by referring to it as “retardass neo-emo crapola”. Yes I can readily admit THIS AIN’T MY BAG, but does that mean it sucks? Nah, not really. But there is a clueless head-in-the-sand thing happening here that kinda worries me. Like, I don’t wanna be anywhere near this VILE guy when the shit really starts coming down. And we all agree it’s comin’ down fast, right?

Thanks to The Right Reverend Enik for the neato Land of the Lost gif